Transit officials this morning are expected to vote on a plan that will ignite the first major service overhaul for San Francisco’s public-transit system in more than 30 years.
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors will consider authorizing planned system changes that are part of the Transit Effectiveness Project, including Muni frequency increases and decreases, new routes, realigning routes, eliminating routes, and expanding limited stop service and hours of operation.
The plan, affecting more than half of Muni’s 81 routes, seeks to increase overall transit service by 12 percent and improve service reliably and travel times by up to 20 percent. Since it was developed in 2008, the plan has gone through dozens of community meetings, and modifications based on public input were made to the planned changes through last week.
“The TEP took a systemwide approach to understanding Muni service,” said Julie Kirschbaum, SFMTA’s operations planning and scheduling manager. “We started by listening to our customers to understand what was working in the existing system and what wasn’t.”
After a round of public comment March 14, transit officials accommodated requests that the 6-Parnassus not be taken out of Ashbury Heights and extended to cover the full length of Haight Street. Instead, the 71-Haight/Noriega was expanded to all-day service running every seven minutes instead of 10.
Residents also spoke out against eliminating the 36-Teresita stop at Warren Drive and a 43-Masonic stop, and got their way. These, and other changes, were accomplished “through a positive and proactive community dialogue,” Kirschbaum said.
The San Francisco Transit Riders Union, a 1,000-member group pushing for Muni reliability and efficiency, supported the plan in a letter, dubbing it the “Great Muni Overhaul.” Though the group has favored the plan for years, particularly the plan to create 40 miles of transit-only lanes, Chairman Bob Boden said, “Honestly, I don’t think it goes far enough.”
“We think it’s taken too long and we need more dramatic changes to make the system really what it needs to be,” he said. “There are some changes that we support and there are some that we feel are watering things down a bit, but overall it’s the right direction.”
But Save Muni, an organization with about 50 members and similar goals as the union, opposes the plan. The plan has an elaborate environmental impact report, approved by the Planning Commission on Thursday, but lacks studies on financial and operating feasibility, said Save Muni founding member Jerry Cauthen.
“Absent cost and projected ridership data, route planners are, in my opinion, flying blindly,” said Cauthen, a former Department of Public Works employee who worked on Muni projects.
Another Save Muni founding member, Howard Wong, said the plan sent a “mixed message.”
“It’s a question mark,” he said. “There are so many changes in service, now you’re wondering how they’re getting the extra money to keep existing service and increase other service.”
The SFMTA is considering up to a 10 percent increase in service as part of its current two-year budget discussions, and the plan is estimated to cost $44.7 million, Kirschbaum said. It “seeks to strike the best possible balance between benefits and tradeoffs,” according to the staff report.
The plan also includes significant pedestrian infrastructure improvements “needed to bring us to our Vision Zero goal of zero pedestrian fatalities,” Kirschbaum said. It is as much about the process as it is about the actual changes.
“The process will allow us to continue to find and make improvements on the system,” she said. “We don’t intend to wait another three decades.”
Highlights of the Muni changes
Changes coming soon to a curb near you:
Replacing all-way, stop-sign-controlled intersections with traffic signals or traffic-calming measures at eight intersections; increasing transit-stop spacing from two to three blocks to three to four blocks; adding transit bulbs at five intersections; extending boarding islands at 13 intersections
Increasing bus stop space from 1.5 to two blocks east of Arguello Boulevard and from two blocks to three blocks in the Richmond district; adding transit bulbs at 16 intersections; implementing a “road diet” on Fulton Street between Stanyan Street and Central Avenue; adding pedestrian bulbs or islands at three intersections
Creating right-turn pockets at key intersections; converting side-running transit-only lanes to center-running transit-only lanes between First and Sixth streets; adding transit-boarding islands at six intersections
Establishing 1 mile of transit-only lanes; increasing bus stop spacing on average from two to 2.5 blocks; adding turn pockets at up to six intersections; adding transit bulbs at 11 intersections
Adding transit-only lanes at three locations; increasing bus stop spacing from one block to two blocks; adding transit bulbs at 11 locations; extending existing transit bulbs at four locations; widening travel lanes on Stockton Street between Broadway and Columbus Avenue